Kyleena Harper wanted to join her friends. They looked so happy on their runs. And she wanted to feel that way.
“I don’t know a single person who runs that’s like, ‘I’m miserable’,” says the 29-year-old marketing writer.
Inspired, she download the Couch to 5K app, and laced up. But after every run Harper was in agony. “My boobs would just go everywhere,” she says. “I was so sore because everything moved so much. The next day, I’d just want to stay in bed.”
Even when she found bras that successfully supported her DD breasts, the straps would leave painful welts on her shoulders. “As soon as I was done exercising, the bra needed to come off immediately,” she says. Finding support was such a challenge that Harper questioned whether exercise was worth the effort of getting the sports bra on.
Then she tested Shefit’s Ultimate Sports Bra. “It was the first time that I went jogging and didn’t feel like my chest was going to fall off,” she says. “It’s literally the only one that I use now.”
The Ultimate Sports Bra was different from anything she’d tried. Velcro on the straps and bust band let her dial in the fit and support to her body. The front zipper let her take it on and off in a snap. The two-way stretch material made the bra flex and move with her. And the cups used a combination of compression and padding for wireless support. Not only did it hold Harper in place, it was more comfortable to wear.
The Ultimate Sports Bra was born from Shefit founder Sara Moylan’s first pregnancy. As her body drastically changed, she became frustrated on her quest to find a comfortable undergarment to support her bust. Worse, old demons from her youth also began to resurface.
“I always struggled with body positivity,” she says. “I dealt with eating disorders in high school. Staying in shape for this first pregnancy was so important to me. I didn’t want to go back down those routes.”
Instead of giving up, Moylan, now a mother of four, went to a fabric store with an idea for a bra that she could adjust to her needs. She began cutting up bras, hot-gluing Velcro to the straps, and adding O-ring buckles with her amateur needlework. “I could finally cinch myself as I wanted, so I did the same thing to the rib band.”
That first prototype of the Ultimate Sports Bra held her in place, keeping her active through her pregnancy and adjusting post-partum, while she was breastfeeding.
She knew that other women could benefit from her design. “I really felt like I had a solution to the problem and needed to share it with all women,’ ” she says.
Shefit launched in 2016 and soon made an appearance on Shark Tank. That eight minutes of screen time sold out the brand’s first batch of the Ultimate Sports Bra inventory within hours.
The company now produces three bras: the as-seen-on-Shark-Tank maximum-
impact Ultimate Sports Bra, the high-impact Ultimate Flex, and the low-impact Real Support. And true to Moylan’s goal to help all women, Shefit’s bras support sizes 30A to 48I.
With Shark Tank checked off, Moylan reached out to universities to promote her bra, hoping to outfit the female athletes. But she was rebuffed by athletic departments worried about breaching their equipment contracts with Nike, Adidas, or Under Armour.
A sports bra is as indispensable as a male athlete’s compression shorts or jockstrap, Moylan argued. Why then would schools not take care to provide as important a piece of equipment to their women?
Sprinter Samantha Levin, 26, who is currently training for the World Championships and 2020 Olympics, recalls how the sports bras issued to her Louisiana State University team were flimsy, would eventually stretch out, and made her lose her focus while she competed.
“I’m very flat-chested,” says Levin. “But people forget that even athletes who are not well-endowed need support.” The bustier women on Levin’s team fared worse.
“I remember there was a girl who needed three sports bras because none of them supported her in the correct way,” she says.
Providing the right sports bra to young female athletes—and all women, in general—was Shefit’s mission from the outset. So to emphasize the importance of a sports bra when it comes to athletic performance, Moylan turned to science.
Sport bra research is woefully limited. So in 2018, Moylan funded a third-party (no input by her) validation study at Central Michigan University. Researchers compared the effectiveness of Shefit’s Ultimate Sports Bra against popular bras by Nike, Adidas, Under Armour, and Brooks. Thirty female participants ranging from cup sizes AA to DD+ performed three trials of a series of exercises, including running in place with high knees, jumping jacks, and side twists, among others. Results showed the Shefit bra reduced bounce by 33 percent compared to other bras—and that sports bras are a performance booster.
“Even for these ladies with small breasts, wearing bras helped increase the speed in running,” says study coauthor Ksenia Ustinova, Ph.D., professor at CMU’s School of Rehabilitation and Medical Sciences.
Now, some schools are onboard with outsourcing Shefit bras to their athletes despite their other contracts. “We have to keep it all hush-hush,” says Moylan. “Some of the universities that purchase from us are big D1 schools.”
Moylan has a bigger goal—a lofty one, she admits—that every woman will own a Shefit.
“Women are looking for something different and to be a part of something that inspires them and that they can pass along. I believe that’s what we’re doing with Shefit.”